Using Color to Manage Your Outlook Calendar and Email

Are you a visual person? If so, today’s productivity tip is for you!

Color coding important appointments and email messages in Outlook to help you manage your calendar and that mountain of email messages we all receive every day. Watch the video, or scroll down to read more.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at my calendar or my email inbox, it can be a little overwhelming. It can be easy to miss important messages when you’re scrolling through your inbox. And looking at a sea of appointments in Outlook can be daunting. Using color makes that easier for me.

One way to use color is to create categories in Outlook. This is the way I color-code items on my calendar so that I can see at a glance what I have coming up that day, that week, or that month. For example, I color code all of my client appointments as green, marketing activities as purple, personal items like doctor’s appointments or family events are pink, administrative activities for my business as blue, speaking engagements as yellow, and so on. I can look at my calendar for the week and see right away how many client appointments I have coming up or whether I’ve set aside any time for marketing.

You can use categories for email messages as well, but I find that the category tags aren’t as obvious when I’m scrolling through my inbox. Instead, I use conditional formatting for email messages to assign a different color to messages I want to stand out or ensure that they get my attention.

If you want some tips on using color in Outlook, download my Using Color in Outlook PDF below. Or contact me to see how I can help you to use Outlook more effectively.

See more productivity tips:

Are You a Good Multi-tasker?

Actually, there’s no such thing as multi-tasking. Author Dave Crenshaw, in his book, The Myth of Multi-tasking, says that (with very few exceptions) you really can’t perform two separate tasks at the same time. What you are really doing when you think you’re “multi-tasking” is switchtasking – you’re rapidly switching back and forth between two tasks.

The problem is that our brains aren’t really set up for switchtasking. And although you may think that your multi-tasking saves you time, in reality, switchtasking costs you time, money and relationships.

Studies have shown that when you switch from one task to another, it increases the time it takes for you to complete the original task by as much as 25%. When that happens repeatedly, it’s a real hit to your productivity.

And have you ever tried to send an email when talking on the phone to a client? What happens? Either you stop paying attention to the conversation and miss what your client is saying, or you make mistakes in the email. You may need to force the client to repeat themselves, re-send the email, or send a second email to correct the mistakes you made in the first one. Or you find out later that you missed something important that the client said on the call. Either way, you’ve made a poor impression on someone – whether the person on the phone or the recipient of the email. If that happens repeatedly, it could cost you business.

The exception to this switchtasking-multi-tasking rule is that you may be able to perform two activities simultaneously if at least one of those activities doesn’t require much brainpower or concentrated thought. So if you want to fold your laundry while watching television or listen to a podcast while you’re running on the treadmill, be my guest.

But if you want to be more productive – and more effective – in your business day, focus on one task at a time. For some strategies to help you do just that, download my “Stop Switchtasking” PDF guide below.

Getting through the Day – Time Management Skills for Lawyers

silver egg timerJuggling a multitude of daily responsibilities can be difficult for lawyers at any stage of their careers, whether young lawyers who are new to the practice or seasoned veterans with many years of practice under their belt. This webinar will cover some of the most common (and most difficult) time management issues lawyers face, including information overload, an overflowing email inbox, constant interruptions, a packed calendar, and more. Our presenters will give you strategies, tips, and tricks to help you focus, prioritize and plan your day so you can concentrate more on serving your clients.

Presenters:

James P. Joseph, Esq., Matrimonial and family lawyer; Managing Partner, Joseph Law Group

Allison C. Shields, Johs Esq., Law practice management consultant; President of Legal Ease Consulting, Inc.

Registration on the New York State Bar Association website.

Secret Weapon for Marketing Content

Stamp saying Top Secret

Do you want to know the secret to creating a consistent stream of content for your marketing?

My clients tell me that one of their major obstacles to marketing is time – they just don’t think they have the time to do everything they would like to do to market their practice. Between social media, newsletters, email marketing campaigns, their website, writing articles, blogs, and now video, they just don’t know how they’re going to have the time to come up with all of that content.

The good news is that they don’t have to. They just need to learn how to repurpose. Every piece of content that is created by a law firm has the potential to be repurposed with much less effort than it would take to create a new piece of content from scratch.

Let’s look at an example.

Say you did a CLE program for your bar association. It’s likely that you had to develop some materials, whether that included PowerPoint slides, written materials, or both. You can repurpose that content in a number of ways:

  • You might have someone record you giving your presentation and use video clips in your marketing. (or record yourself if it’s on Zoom or a similar platform)
  • Have someone take photos of you giving your presentation to use as images on social media. (or take screenshots if it’s online)
  • Turn your materials into an article to publish in an industry or bar association publication.
  • Then take that article and post it on your website
  • Turn the article into a series of posts on social media
  • Include the article in your firm’s monthly newsletter
  • Break the article into smaller chunks to post separately on your blog
  • Take the first part of the article and post it as a Publisher post on LinkedIn with a link back to the full article on your website
  • Take your PPT slides and post them as a slide presentation on Slideshare
  • Give the presentation again to another audience, or for your best clients

You can do the same thing with legal work you perform. Watch the video above to learn more, or email me to find out how I can help you repurpose content you already have.

Watch more of my videos:

Overwhelmed? Focus on Just One Thing

Between pandemics, and elections and riots and crazy ice storms, there’s a lot to be stressed about these days, and it can be hard to get in a productive mood and stay focused.

I’ve been doing a series of videos on motivation, and how to pull yourself out of a funk if you’re just not feeling motivated. But sometimes, even the tips and tricks I’ve been sharing with you don’t work. Or something very unexpected comes up that derails all of the plans you’ve made, and it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall.

I had something like that happen to me this week – I have been trying to juggle a bunch of projects with deadlines so I can go out of town at the end of this month, and one of them came crashing down last night. As a result, my entire plan went out the window.

When something like that happens to me, I take it as a signal that it’s time to slow down to speed up.

What do I mean by that? Sometimes the busier we are, the harder it is to see what is really important.

Stress can become a vicious cycle. As the work piles up, we get more stressed and overwhelmed. And the more overwhelmed we get, the more difficult it is to focus, or to get anything done.

That may be exactly the right time to take a break, take a deep breath, and focus on just one thing. Ask yourself, “What is the single most important thing I need to do right now?” It might be calling a client to let them know that the work will be late. Or it might be organizing all of the projects on your desk so that you can see what needs to be done. Or maybe it’s identifying someone who can help you get through your list and delegating some tasks to them. It might be deciding what to say “no” to.

Identifying just the one thing that is most important in the moment, it can free you from thinking about all of the other projects or tasks on your list.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a step back and focusing just on the one most important thing you can do today to move toward your goals.

Want more productivity hacks? Check out these videos:

Get Motivated in 15 Minutes or Less

What do you do when you need to get something done, but you’re just not feeling it?

Hi, I’m Allison Shields Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices.

In my last video, I suggested that you shouldn’t wait until you’re feeling motivated before tackling a task or project you need to get done. The first step is just showing up – you might be surprised at what happens. Take action first and motivation will follow. (Watch that video here)

Today I want to talk about three more ways to get things done when you’re just not feeling it.

Take a walk.

Sitting at a computer or at your desk most of the day may seem like the best way to get things done, but it’s probably not. And most of us are spending even more time sitting now that courts are shut down and in-person meetings aren’t taking place – there’s even fewer reasons to leave your office than ever.

But sitting too long not only isn’t good for your body – it isn’t good for your brain either. If you’re not feeling motivated to tackle a task or project, try getting some exercise.

Take a 15-minute walk or do some yoga or stretches. Some of my best ideas come when I’m taking a walk or right after a workout.

Phone a friend.

Two heads are often better than one. Seek out a friend, family member, or colleague to talk about the project you want to accomplish. Sometimes just talking about it with another person is enough to get you motivated, or to spark an idea.

Maybe you’ll realize that the task or project isn’t so daunting after all, or you’ll just grow tired of hearing yourself talk about it and just get on with it. Or maybe your friend will have a suggestion that leads to a breakthrough.

Set a 15-minute timer.

The Pomodoro Technique, which I talked about in detail in a previous video, is a great technique to use if you’re feeling stuck or un-motivated.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and work only on the task you’ve been avoiding until the timer goes off. Then you’re free to quit and work on something else – at least you’ll have gotten started on that task.

But you may be surprised to learn that once you’ve gotten started, you’re motivated to continue.

How do you motivate yourself when you’re just not feeling it? Let me know in the comments!

Again, I’m Allison Shields Johs from Legal Ease Consulting, and if you want more tips like this, subscribe to my free newsletter, or see more productivity videos and articles:

Not Motivated? Just Show Up

Sometimes it’s just not easy to get motivated to tackle a project or task on your to-do list. But maybe waiting for motivation before taking action is the wrong approach.

I’m not always motivated to do what I need to do either – one example is not always being motivated to prepare and show up for my weekly Videosocials call to record my videos. But I remembered a saying I’ve heard recently that resonated with me:

Get up. Dress up. Show up.

Sometimes, all you have to do is to show up and motivation will follow.

For more tips on how to get going when you’re just not feeling motivated, check out this article: How to Get Motivated.

More productivity videos:

Can a Tomato Make You More Productive?

Can a tomato make you more productive?

Hi, I’m Allison Shields Johs, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers create more productive, more profitable, and more enjoyable law practices.

I don’t know about you, but lately I seem to be having a very difficult time focusing and accomplishing what I want to accomplish. I’ve worked from home for many years, but lately I seem to get distracted more easily. Perhaps it’s the pandemic and all of the anxieties that have gone along with it. Or perhaps it’s just Zoom fatigue. Who knows? But whatever the reason, I’m finding I have to fall back on some tips and tricks to help me get things done, and today I’d like to share one of those with you.

That’s where the tomato comes in.

The tip I’d like to talk about today is called the “Pomodoro” technique – pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. The pomodoro technique was developed by an Italian, and it was named after a timer that looks like a tomato.

Here’s how it works:

First, you decide on the task you want to get done. Then you set a timer for a specific interval of time – traditionally 25 minutes – and you work on the task without any interruption at all for that interval. Once the timer goes off, you can stop and take a 5-minute break. Each interval represents one pomodoro.

In the traditional pomodoro method, you would do four consecutive pomodoros, and then take a longer 15-30 minute break.

If you complete the task while the timer is still ticking, you can use the additional time in the pomodoro to review your work or plan tasks for your next pomodoro. Of course, there are all sorts of variations of this technique, and you might choose to make your pomodoros 60, or even 90 minutes long.

But whatever variation you choose, using this system helps you to focus on the task at hand for a long enough period of time to accomplish something significant, but it is a short enough time that you won’t allow yourself to become distracted. Since you have a break every 25 minutes, you can address anything urgent that might come up in the interim.

For lawyers billing by the hour, using the pomodoro technique is also helpful for ensuring that you are billing your time contemporaneously with the work being performed. But even if you aren’t billing by the hour, using the pomodoro technique is useful for improving your ability to estimate how long it takes you to complete certain tasks, which can help your overall time management.

For me, just the idea of blocking out a discrete segment of time with no distractions has proved useful for moving me forward toward my goals, so I hope it will be useful for you, too.

Again, I’m Allison Shields Johs, from Legal Ease Consulting, wishing you a productive day – and now, since it’s lunchtime, I think I’m going to make myself a BLT!

Want more productivity tips? Sign up for my newsletter or watch more videos on productivity:

Juggling Marketing and Practicing Law: Tools and Tips to Help You Strike a Balance

Keynote presentation for the Monroe County Bar Association Solo and Small Firm Conference.

Trying to balance the demands of practicing law and serving your clients with marketing and business development can be a real challenge. In this program, you’ll get tips on how to improve your productivity and manage tasks and activities more effectively, along with some suggested tools that you can use to make your job easier.

New York State Bar Association Solo Practitioner Conference

The New York State Bar Association will be holding its annual Solo Practitioner’s Conference again this year, on October 28, 2019. The conference will feature a full day of programming specifically geared toward solo practitioners, and covering topics including networking, reputation management, client appreciation, and using LinkedIn effectively and ethically (my topic).

For more information on the program, or to register, visit www.nysba.org/SoloConference2019.

I hope to see you there! (But if you can’t make it in person, the program will also be recorded and simulcasted).

Managing Staff Interruptions

Hi, I’m Allison Shields, President of Legal Ease Consulting, where I help lawyers attract the right clients, increase their productivity, and improve their bottom line.

As a practicing lawyer, one of the problems I observed with the lawyers around me, and still observe today with my clients and my lawyer friends is that when they finally got some time in the office to actually catch up on paperwork, or respond to phone calls or emails, they got even less done than they did when they were out of the office, whether that was in court, at a closing, a deposition o a client meeting.

And why does that happen? Well, it happens because when they were in the office, they were constantly being interrupted. There are lots of interruptions, but the one we’re going to talk about today is staff interruptions.

You know what I’m talking about – you’re in your office, finally trying to get some work done, and there’s a line of people outside your door waiting to speak to you, or your assistant is constantly bombarding you with questions all day long. This happens because your staff feels insecure – they have no idea when they’re going to see you again or when you’ll be available to speak with them, and so when they see you, they just grab you.

One way to avoid this is by setting regular meetings with the staff and people in your office that you work most closely with. But the key to this is to be consistent, because the point is to reduce their insecurity. You’ll want to give them a definite time when they know that they’ll be able to get their questions answered, or to speak with you.

I recommend that you set a regular schedule of meetings with those people. So for example, maybe that’s meeting with your assistant every day at 4 pm, and the associate that you work most closely with once a week on Tuesday morning, and maybe your billing person once a month to talk about billing and collections issues on the first Monday of the month. This way, they know when they can get to you, and they’ll collect all of their questions to ask you at once.

My clients who have implemented this have found not only that it has drastically reduced interruptions during the day, but it has also increased the productivity of their entire team, and it has allowed them to anticipate problems before they arise.

What are your challenges with staff or other interruptions? Leave me a comment below.

See more productivity tips:

Conquer Your To-Do List With The Power of Three

Do you have a to-do list that never ends because every time you cross one thing off of it, you add three more? If this sounds like you, watch this video below to find out how to use one of my favorite strategies, the Power of Three, to end your to-do list tyranny.

Like this video? Leave a comment, share with your network, or check out my other videos.

For more on productivity see:

New York State Bar Association Webinar: Time Management

Join us for this one hour webinar presenting practical time management tips for lawyers at all stages of their practice. More details to follow.

Presenters: Allison C. Shields, Esq. and James Joseph, Esq.

Overwhelmed? Try This Calendar Hack

If you feel overwhelmed from the moment you arrive at work until the moment you leave, perhaps you’re not using one of the best – and easiest to use – tools effectively. And that tool is your calendar.

In this video, I talk about how you can use your calendar not just to record when work is due, but also to find the time to do the work.

Want more productivity tips? Check these out:

How NOT to Use Email

Email is a fantastic tool – but it isn’t the right tool for every job. Email is especially poor for scheduling meetings, particularly meetings for more than two people. Use a dedicated scheduling tool instead. Learn more in the video below.

See more productivity tips: